One of the most defining accomplishments of President Obama’s first term has been the passage of healthcare reform. Despite being a historic event, healthcare plan continues to attract criticism and many Republicans including Chairman Michael Steele have not even refrained from calling it “socialism” (The Associated Press). Calling healthcare plan a socialist act could not have been further from the truth and once again confirms the fact that our political leaders do not hesitate to engage in misleading information campaign to advance their personal agenda. Socialism could be defined as a centrally planned economy in which the government controls means of production (Heilbroner) and nothing in the healthcare plan announces government’s intention to nationalize the healthcare sector or engage in production and service activities. It is clear after analyzing some of the provisions of the plan (Nolen and Jackson) that Obama Administration’s primary motive is to strengthen patients’ rights and make health insurance affordable for all Americans.
The similarities among Republicans and Democrats on this issue are that both insist they are advancing the overall interests of the American public. Republicans claim they are protecting the right of Americans to choose healthcare options themselves while Democrats say they are making healthcare affordable for all Americans. Another similarity is that both parties are claiming to protect the healthcare sector. Republicans say they are trying to protect healthcare companies from unnecessary government meddling while Democrats claim that healthcare plan will actually increase the market for healthcare companies by admitting more people through insurance plans.
The differences between two parties on the healthcare plan have been inspired by their economic philosophies. Republicans believe in minimum government intervention in economic affairs because they subscribe to the idea that markets are capable of regulating themselves and the forces of competition ensure market efficiency. Democrats on the other hand believe that some government intervention is necessary to ensure efficient functioning of the economy and government has a duty to protect the interests of the citizens if corporations may have become too powerful. This Democrat philosophy has helped shape the healthcare plan in which the government will negotiate on behalf of the people to extract better terms from the healthcare and insurance companies.
Another difference between the two parties is in their economic perception of the healthcare plan. Republicans view healthcare plan as a socialist agenda while Democrats view healthcare plan to be perfectly compatible with the country’s capitalist market system.
As far as I am concerned, it baffles me that Republicans term healthcare plan as a socialist act because by the same logic, free education up to high school is also a socialist act because everyone gets education irrespective of his economic background. Healthcare is no different than education in some aspects because just as education is a basic right, healthcare is also a fundamental right and everyone should have access to affordable healthcare. If healthcare makes U.S. a socialist country, then the country became socialist the day it started offering free education. In fact, Medicare and Medicaid also have socialist elements yet Republicans don’t oppose these because they don’t want to alienate an influential voting bloc. Republicans argue that healthcare sector will become inefficient due to healthcare plan yet they ignore the fact that it is already inefficient and government intervention may actually force it to become more efficient.
If healthcare sector was efficient, it would have found a way to cater to the needs of millions of Americans who are without health insurance. Another fact is that socialism is not even the right word to use to describe healthcare plan because healthcare products and services will still be provided by the same companies; the only difference being that they will not be able to charge extremely high premiums like in the past due to lack of oversight. Republicans also tend to forget that many capitalist countries including U.K and Canada offer universal healthcare plan (Klein) yet no one considers them socialist countries.
- Heilbroner, Robert. Socialism. 17 March 2013 http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Socialism.html
- Klein, Ezra. When it comes to healthcare, the U.S., Britain and Canada are hurting. 7 April 2009. 17 March 2013 http://articles.latimes.com/2009/apr/07/opinion/oe-klein7
- Nolen, John and Jill Jackson. Health Care Reform Bill Summary: A Look At What’s in the Bill. 21 March 2010. 17 March 2013 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20000846-503544/health-care-reform-bill-summary-a-look-at-whats-in-the-bill/
- The Associated Press. Steele Calls Obama Health Plan “Socialism”. 20 July 2009. 17 March 2013 http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-250_162-5174417.html